After writing “It’s How Its Is Used,” I decided that I wanted to also write about one of my other pet peeves related to grammar. Now, I am not perfect with my grammar, and I’m no language zealot, but there are a few common mistakes that drive me crazy. Today I am going to tell you about how to use “me.” I’m talking about the pronoun “me,” specifically as a direct object, and how “I” should not be used.
Let’s look at the following sentence; see if you can find anything wrong.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Scott or I.
I’m willing to bet that 80% of those reading this post will think that the above sentence is without error, but there’s a glaring mistake. Let’s restate the intent a different way, using the same words, to see if the mistake becomes apparent.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Scott, or contact I.
See it now? “Contact I" cannot be correct. It’s, “contact me.” Let’s take a look at it like that.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Scott, or contact me.
Ahh, much better. Now, let’s rephrase it back to the original usage.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Scott or me.
For many of you this probably sounds wrong, but it’s not. “I” cannot be used as a direct object, as we saw when we changed things around, and that is true when the direct object has multiple parties involved too. “Me” is always used as the first-person pronoun direct object.
I am not alone in recognizing this common mistake. In fact, while listening to Verbal Advantage, I heard a very profound explanation of why people make this mistake. The author, Charles Harrington Elster, asserts that this mistake is only made by educated individuals. He explains that many English teachers pressure their pupils to use “I” instead of “me” categorically, to prevent people from using “me” as part of the subject. True, it would be wrong to say, “Scott and me are looking forward to your questions.” But it’s equally as wrong to say, “contact Scott or I.”
What I showed you above is the simple test that can be done to test your usage of “me” and “I.” Just break the direct object up so that instead of having multiple parties, everything is singular. Then you’ll see that “me” should be used wherever you would have used “I” in the direct object.
Wrong: Send it to Scott and I
Test: Send it to Scott and send it to me
Right: Send it to Scott and me
Wrong: That book belongs to Scott and I
Test: That book belongs to Scott and that book belongs to me
Right: That book belongs to Scott and me
Wrong: Scott and me are going to a meeting
Test: Scott is going to a meeting and I am going to a meeting
Right: Scott and I are going to a meeting
If my musings on language pique your interest, I would recommend getting a copy of Verbal Advantage. It’s a worthwhile investment. I haven’t finished it (or even come close), but what I have heard has been very helpful. I haven’t listened to the CDs in almost a year, but one of my resolutions this year was to finish the entire series.
Also, I’d like to give a shout out to my English teacher from 12th grade, Mr. Kemen. Before attending his class, I had been taught wrongly by all previous English teachers. Mr. Kemen showed our class the trick for rewording the sentence to see how to correctly use the direct object.